Linking smallholder potato farmers to the market while caring for the environment

©FAO/Sean Gallagher

The research project focused on both the input and output sides of the market for potatoes. The LiSFaMe project was a collaborative effort between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Potato Centre in Ecuador, the Fundación PROINPA in Bolivia, the American University in Washington DC and the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands. 

The last decade has witnessed profound changes in farming systems and the way in which agricultural production is organized in many developing countries. These changes have led to new organisational and institutional arrangements within the food marketing chain such as new forms of contracts (pre-established contracts versus spot markets) as well as the imposition of private grades and standards for food quality and safety.

Agro-processing and market integration
The net effect of the increased agro-processing and market integration on the welfare of poor people is controversial as it can be twofold. On the one hand increased commercialisation shifts farm households away from traditional self-sufficiency goals and towards profit and income-oriented decision making. On the other hand the process may exacerbate poverty levels through marginalization of the rural poor.

Commercialisation of agricultural produce
The increased commercialisation of agricultural produce could also have various negative effects on the environment. In particular, there are concerns over an increased intensity of natural resources use, biodiversity loss through the genetic erosion of local varieties and the intensification of chemicals used for agricultural production.

Commercialisation and the environment
The effects of increased commercialisation on the environment and on the welfare of small potato farmers were analysed in Ecuador and Bolivia. The Andean region is ideally suited for such an investigation because it is the point of origin and centre of genetic diversity for a number of important crops, particularly potatoes. Moreover, Andean agriculture relies on a resource base that is somewhat fragile because of its topography. Large indigenous populations live in this region with widespread poverty, particularly in rural areas.

The research project is innovative in its aim to examine the impact of agro-processing on the functioning of agricultural markets, household welfare and environment. In addition, the role of markets in maintaining the sustainable utilization of Crop Genetic Resources (CGR) is also analysed for the case of Bolivia.

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